New Senate Bill Tackles Military Spouse Employment Challenges

This week, Senator Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus, introduced a broad piece of legislation called the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 addressing challenges faced by military spouses for decades. Kaine's office has been diligently contacting organizations such as MOAA to dig into what is possible and what is necessary. MOAA supports this important piece of legislation, which addresses long-standing goals for military families.

The Military Spouse Employment Act, addresses:

  • the direct hiring authority held by federal agencies to place military spouses,
  • employment of military spouses in DoD-held contracts,
  • improvements to DoD spouse employment programs at the implementation and installation level,
  • child care challenges and accessibility,
  • expansion of Military OneSource benefits in law to one full year after separation for military service for both the service member and their immediate family,
  • reforms in the transition assistance programs to include spouses,
  • growth in public private partnerships,
  • removal of barriers to military spouse micro-business for families who live on the installation, and
  • further assessment on permanent change of station effects on military spouse employment

Two income families are typical across the United States. Military spouse employment has many positive correlations to retention and well-being of service members and their families. Stigmas about dependability, resume gaps due to relocation, and lack of personal support networks for emergencies (such as short-notice deployments) are all reasons military spouses might be kept out of the workforce.

According to the DoD's 2015 survey of active duty spouses, 34 percent do not work by choice. But many military spouses who do not work would like to provide a second income for the security and welfare of their family. The same survey shows, of those spouses who want to work, 23 percent remain unemployed. Other organizational research shows unemployment rates for military spouses as low as 16 percent and as high as 28 percent. Regardless of the number, it remains too high for the financial security of military families.

This is particularly poignant given the very recent, and potentially recurring, government shutdown, which could prevent service members from receiving their paychecks on time. A family dependent on just a servicemember's paycheck is put in a difficult spot by Congress' inability to agree on a budget - a luxury that servicemembers and their families likely can't afford.

MOAA is grateful Kaine has jumped with both feet into his role as co-chair of the Military Family Caucus by introducing this landmark legislation. Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 marks a full tactical push against the issue of military spouse unemployment and underemployment.